Monkeypox creeps into a Toronto homeless shelter

A Toronto Public Health team is investigating the possibility that monkeypox has spread to a homeless shelter after confirming that an infected person had recently stayed there.

A press release from the city government on Monday notes that the infected person has been transferred to an isolation ward set aside for cases of COVID-19. This resource also welcomes people with monkeypox who do not quarantine anywhere.

We are now trying to determine if there are other cases linked to this shelter.

The City of Toronto has not identified the accommodation involved in this case or how long the individual stayed there.

According to Diana Chan McNally, who works at a center for people in need, the spread of monkeypox through the shelter system, in addition to the presence of COVID-19 and all sorts of other infectious diseases, could lead to a “massive infection” scenario.

“This disease can affect anyone,” says All Saints Drop-in Shelter’s Chan McNally. “If you have people gathered closely together, sharing a closed and busy space, I can imagine that there will be massive infections on the network,” she analyzed.

The city says it will continue to work with health experts to limit the risk of spreading monkeypox, COVID-19 and other contagious diseases in high-risk locations like emergency shelters.

To limit the number of cases in shelters, the city says it will continue to use prevention and control measures, including stricter maintenance protocols and the wearing of personal protective equipment. On-site audits, staff training, and outbreak response protocols are also in place at shelters.

In addition, Toronto is considering the possibility and feasibility of a monkeypox vaccination campaign in the network of shelters for people affected by homelessness.

For Ms Chan McNally, there is no doubt that homeless people should be among the priority populations to receive the vaccine.

“We need to make sure shelters don’t close and we need to increase the number of places people can isolate while infected with COVID-19 or monkeypox,” she continued. We don’t have enough space to accommodate everyone if we ever have to deal with massive infections. »

In addition, the social worker denounces the lack of transparency in the case of a confirmed monkeypox infection. She particularly regrets the lack of accuracy regarding the whereabouts of the person.

“I understand no outbreak has been reported yet, but I am overwhelmed by the lack of information. I don’t need to know, people affected by homelessness have a right to know if their health might be at risk if they are currently attending the same shelter,” she said.

As of last Thursday, Ontario had 367 confirmed cases of monkeypox. About 78% of the cases were identified in Toronto. Only two cases of infection in women have been confirmed. Most infections affect men who have had intimate relationships with other men, but anyone can become infected.

The virus is not so easily transmitted, but a person can become infected by droplet infection after prolonged close contact. Contact with lesions on the skin or with bodily fluids, or with soiled clothing or sheets can also transmit the infection.

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